Gardening Across the Generations

This Farming Style Spotlights the Role Ancient Wisdom Plays in the Modern World.

Nov 14, 2021
Gardening Across the Generations | This Farming Style Spotlights the Role Ancient Wisdom Plays in the Modern World.

If you have a sister, you know that unshakeable bond. There is no one like a sister to support you and keep you going, glowing, and growing. Indigenous people in the Americas applied this wisdom to their farming as well, with amazing results. For them, ingigenous farming has been empowering communities and nature for generations.

Not just a garden but a family
Iroquois and many other tribes planted “Three Sisters” gardens. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains: in these gardens, beans, squash and corn lived together in the soil like family. And just like families, these three core crops each aided the other’s growth. All this with no sibling rivalry. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FoodPrints DC (@foodprintsdc)

With the “Three Sisters” method, spindly and unstable beanstalks leaned on the tall, proud, and leafy corn stalks for support.Those beanstalks helped its sisters thrive by tying them together and making the soil nitrogen rich. Far below the corn stalk’s prominent ears, the shortest sister, the squash, shaded the ground with heart-shaped leaves, preventing weed growth. The best part? Once harvested, corn, beans and squash made for delicious and nutritious meals with all the food groups: carbs, vegetables and protein! 

Ancient crops: new homes
As is apparent from the Three Sisters, Indigenous farming contains wisdom and sustainable practices that are relevant in today’s modern world. At UC Berkeley, students from native backgrounds experiment with environmental science and professional horticulture while connecting with their ancestral “roots.” As BerkeleySide reports the Indigenous Community Learning Garden provides just this opportunity under the tutelage of Phenocia Bauerle of Apsáalooke tribal descent.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Asparagus Magazine (@asparaguszine)

Baurle and the other students and staff totalling some 15 people, who work the garden, explore native plants that used to rule the land and native diets. For example, acorns, hazelnut flour and sunflower seed oil aren’t on our menus much. But they do sometimes make their way from the Indigenous Community Learning Garden to Cafe Ohlone, a restaurant, which aims to keep pre-colonial delicacies alive and accessible. 

Gangly milkweed plants with milky sap and ball-like flower clusters dot the garden. These elegant weeds are used for indigenous basketmaking. They also bring beautiful monarch butterflies to pollinate the gardens. Other stars of the Indigenous Community Learning Garden include: brodiaea, soaproot, camus and Indian potatoes.

Indigenous gardens go global
Baurle’s project is at the forefront of a worldwide movement to empower native tribes to explore sustainable indigenous horticulture. The idea is to rediscover ancient wisdom to solve modern problems like forest fires and deforestation. 

For example, according to 7News, Australia is exploring indigeous fire management techniques to help the country heal from the devastating bushfires. Additionally, Aboriginal farm “Black Duck Foods” introduces Australians to a healthier native diet of tubers, murnong, dancing and spear grass among other native species.

Modern agriculture has caused a loss of nearly 60% of biodiversity, reports CNN. Do indigenous practices hold a solution? Ecuadorian Shuar tribe member Jimbijti thinks so. He says,"We take enough but not too much. It would be a lack of respect for everything and create a total imbalance." 

In Northern India, Roy from the indigenous Khasi tribe is working to remind people that one can be in sync with nature and the land. In a world that is profit and results driven, Khasi reminds us that “land and nature is not a commodity." It would do us all good to remember this and to respect and explore native plants and sustainable indigenous gardening while we still have the chance to learn. 

5 Indigenous Health Practices to Practice Today
YouTube is Conserving an Ancient Language for Next Gen Australians
This Indigenous Community's Farming Co-op Protects the Amazon

Adina is a writer who believes in the transformative power of words. She understands that everyone has a valuable story to tell. Adina’s goal is to learn new things every day and share her discoveries with others.